Paul Goes to Jerusalem

Scripture Reference:
Acts 20:13-17;
Acts 20:22-24;
Acts 21:1-22:29

Story Overview: Paul continued to travel and teach about Jesus as he listened to the Spirit’s call and determinedly made his way toward Jerusalem.  In Caesarea, near Jerusalem, a man named Agabus prophesied that the Jews in Jerusalem would harm Paul if he went there and this is indeed what happened.  Wrongly accusing Paul of defiling the temple by bringing Gentiles into the courtyard, a mob of angry people attacked Paul and began to beat him.  A Roman Commander arrested Paul to try to put a stop to the angry mob.  Before being taken into custody Paul was allowed to tell the crowd about his conversion.  The crowd became even angrier when Paul talked about Jesus.

Suggested Emphasis: Have the courage to do what is right even if others (friends or enemies) oppose us.

Background Study
Way to Introduce the Story
The Story
Review Questions
Craft and Activity Ideas
Other Online Resources

Background Study:

Click here for an overview of the Book of Acts

Paul’s 3rd Missionary Journey draws to a close in this lesson.  Following Paul’s short time in Troas when Eutychus Fell from a Window Paul and his companions had continued traveling towards Jerusalem.  Paul was in a hurry to get there before Pentecost celebrations were to begin (Acts 20:16).

Paul Visits The Ephesian Elders on his way to Jerusalem (Acts 20:13-38)
Quickly travelling through Assos, Mitylene, Kios, Samos and sailing past Ephesus Paul arrived in Miletus.  Stopping in Ephesus would have cost Paul more time and he had not left there on the best of terms the year before (see Paul in Ephesus).  Still, he cared deeply about the Christians there so he sent for the Ephesian elders to meet with him in Miletus.  In this very emotional meeting with the elders he encourages and instructs them on how to keep watch over their “flock” (congregations) .  He tells them that he will not see them again and that he is “compelled by the Spirit” to go to Jerusalem.

Agabus prophesies about the dangers of Paul going to Jerusalem  (Acts 21:1-16)
Other quick stops along the way were Cos, Rhodes, Patara, Phoenicia.  The ship sailed by Cyprus and stopped in Tyre before landing in Ptolemais.  Paul’s group traveled overland to the Gentile city of Caesarea which was the capital of Roman Judea and the place where the first Gentile, Cornelius, had become a Christian.

They stayed in the house of Philip, the evangelist.  Philip was the one who baptised the Ethiopian Eunuch and the last verse of Acts 8 might indicate that he had stayed in the area of Caesarea since that time.

It was here at Philip’s house that a prophet named Agabus came from Judea and prohesied to Paul.  This was not the first time they had met.  Fifteen years earlier, while at the Antioch church, Agabus’ prophecy of a famine resulted in Paul and Barnabas being sent by the Antioch church to take a gift to the Christians living in Judea (Acts 11:27-30).  Now, here they are together again in Judea with Agabus prophesying.  Agabus not only said the prophecy but also acted it out for Paul.  Agabus used Paul’s belt to tie up his hands and feet.  The prophecy was that the Jews in Jerusalem would also tie Paul up.

Despite their pleading, Paul continued on to Jerusalem.  Some disciples from Caesarea accompanied Paul on the 100 kilometre (62 mile) trek to Jerusalem and took him to stay in the home of a man called Mnason (from Cyprus).

This marks the End of Paul’s 3rd Missionary Journey.  Paul had completed his visits to churches.  The events in Jerusalem from this time forward lead Paul toward one destination, Rome.

Paul visits the elders in Jerusalem and takes part in a Jewish custom.  (Acts 21:17-26)
The day after arriving in Jerusalem Paul went to see James and met with all the elders in Jerusalem.  This James is the brother of Jesus and the author of the New Testament book of James, not one of the original 12 Apostles.

There were problems in Jerusalem.  Although Paul’s mission to teach the Gentiles was clear it was always a point of contention from both Christian and non-Christian Jews.  The non-Christian Jews would often try to use Paul’s association with Gentiles against him.  Even Christian Jews sometimes had a hard time accepting that Gentiles could become Christians without being Jews too.  The elders asked Paul to join in a purification right at the Jewish temple to show all the Jews that he was not an enemy of the Jews.  Paul participated in the 7 day custom because he loved the Jewish people and wanted all of them to obey God and follow God’s Son, Jesus.  Paul is quite clear in his other writings about living under the new law and not the old (Galatians 3:23-25, among others).  This vow was most likely a personal voluntary vow as in Numbers 6:2-12 and not a requirement of the law.

People spread lies and started a riot.  (Acts 21:27-32)
Some Jewish leaders saw Paul at the temple and began spreading false rumours that he had brought Gentiles into the temple.  This was not true but people believed it and became very angry.  The crowd began yelling and screaming and then began to beat Paul up.  A commander of Roman troops saw the crowd getting out of control and rushed in to see what was happening.  Later, when the commander writes a letter we later learn that his name is Claudius Lysias, Acts 23:26.

Paul preaches to the crowd.  (Acts 21:33-22:22)
The commander wanted everyone to stop yelling and fighting so he arrested Paul and began leading him up some steps into the place where the soldiers lived.  While they were on the stairs Paul asked the commander for permission to address the crowd and the commander allowed this.  Paul spoke to all the Jews in their language, Aramaic.  Hearing their own language made everyone calm down again.

Paul told them that he was a Jew, himself, and had been trained by a great Jewish teacher named Gamaliel.  He told them how he used to hate Christians.  He had even put them in jail and killed some of them.  Then Paul told them about something that changed his life when he was travelling along the road to Damascus.  Jesus himself had appeared to Paul and told him to stop hurting Christians and start telling everyone the good news about Jesus dying on the cross for them.  Then Paul said something that made the crowd angry all over again.  Many Jews thought they were God’s only people.  Jesus told Paul that Jews in Jerusalem would not believe the truth. Paul must go and tell other people the good news.  Even the people who were not Jews.  When Paul said that then the crowd erupted.  They thought that God would only choose THEM to be his people.

Paul is almost flogged.  (Acts 22:23-29)
The Commander could not understand what Paul was saying because he did not speak the Jewish language.  But when he saw the crowd start to get out of control again he ordered a centurian, soldier, to take Paul into barracks and flog (beat) and question him.  He wanted to find out what it was about Paul that made the crowd so angry.

The centurian stretched Paul out and was about to beat him when Paul told him something very important that made him stop.  Paul was not just an ordinary Jew.  Paul was a Roman citizen.  Roman citizens had special rights.  They could not be put in chains and beaten up without a trial.  The centurion called in the commander and the commander became very upset that he had almost broken a very important law.  He did not want to get in trouble.

An important meeting is planned.  (Acts 22:30) The commander wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews so he arranged a meeting the next day with the Jewish leaders.  This is covered in the story Paul’s Nephew Uncovers a Plot.


Way to Introduce the Story:
Who do you know who is brave? (let them answer).  What does it mean when a person is brave?  What about a fireman that goes into a burning building to rescue someone who is inside?  Would he have to be brave?  Today we are going to learn about someone in the bible who was very brave.  Many people told Paul it was dangerous to go to the city of Jerusalem but the Holy Spirit told him to do the brave thing and go.  What do you think Paul chose to do?  Let’s find out…

The Story:
From the very first day that Paul began to follow Jesus, he started telling others about the Good News. He told them that they could be Christians too. Paul traveled to far away places to tell about Jesus. He went on many missionary journeys. At the time of today’s story Paul was on his 3rd big missionary journey.

Paul always went where God wanted Him to go and now he knew it was time to finish this journey and travel to Jerusalem.  People in churches told him he should not go to Jerusalem because it would be dangerous for him there.  There were Jews in Jerusalem who hated Paul. They did not believe in Jesus and they might try to hurt him. Paul’s friends begged him not to go.  Paul listened to his friends but he decided that he should do what was right even if they did not agree.  Paul knew he had to do what God and the Holy Spirit were telling him to do.  He must go to Jerusalem.

After leaving the city of Troas where Eutychus lived Paul and his friends traveled a very long way to get to Jerusalem.  Sometimes Paul walked and sometimes he sailed in a ship.  As they traveled they stopped in places like Assos, Mitylene, Kios, Samos and Miletus.   When Paul met with friends along the way they all warned him against going to Jerusalem.  But Paul was determined to do what the Holy Spirit was leading him to do.

The ship Paul was traveling on stopped at Cos, Rhodes, Patara, Phoenicia and Tyre before finally landing in a place called Ptolemais.  Now Paul could travel by land to a place called Caesarea.  He was almost there!

At Caesarea Paul stayed at the home of a man called Philip, the evangelist. While he was there a prophet of God named Agabus came to Caesarea to give Paul a message. Instead of telling Paul the message, he acted it out instead. Using Paul’s belt, Agabus wrapped his own hands and feet. Then he told Paul and the rest of those watching, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘This is how the Jews in Jerusalem will tie up the man who wears this belt. Then they will give him to the non-Jewish people.’”

Even after hearing about the dangers of Jerusalem Paul would not change his mind. He said that he would go to Jerusalem because he believed that is where the Lord wanted him to go.

When Paul arrived in Jerusalem the Christians there were happy to see him. Paul went to visit the Jewish temple. Some Jews saw him there and started telling lies about him. Only Jews were allowed in the temple area and they said that Paul was bringing other people into the temple area even though it was against the law. This was not true but many people in the crowd believed them. The people were getting more and more angry.  They began yelling and screaming and beating Paul up.

A Roman Commander noticed the crowd and that they were about to kill a man. The Commander was sort of like a police officer and it was his job to keep peace.  He told them to stop. They would not stop! They said that Paul had broken the law. The Roman soldier could not even hear what Paul had to say so he decided to take him to the soldier’s sleeping quarters and let him answer questions there. The crowd was so angry that soldiers had to lift Paul up and carry him to get him away safely.

As the soldiers were taking Paul up the stairs Paul asked the commander if he could talk to the crowd.  The commander said he could.  So Paul tried once more to talk to the crowd. When he began speaking in the language of the Jews- Aramaic they were surprised and really listened to him.  Paul told them about how God loved the Jewish people.  God loved them so much that he sent His Son, Jesus, to save them.

At first the crowd was listening to Paul but then he said that Jesus had given him special instructions.  One time, when Paul was traveling on the road to Damascus Jesus told him that the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem would not believe the truth.  Paul’s special job would be to go and preach to everyone that God did not just love the Jewish people.  God loved everyone in the world!

What?  How could this be?  The crowd thought that the Jews were the only ones that deserve special news.  They were angry at Paul all over again.

The soldiers took him inside.  They were going to flog (beat) him and try to make him answer questions.

The commander and the soldiers worked for the government of Rome.  The leaders of Rome were their bosses.  They didn’t have to treat the Jews good but they always had to treat the citizens of Rome in a fair way.  If they didn’t do this they cold get in a lot of trouble.

So, just before they were about to hit him Paul told them something they did not know.  Paul said, “You are about to do something against the law.  You are about to beat me and I am a citizen of Rome.”

So Paul did not get beaten after all.  Instead, the Commander set up a meeting for the very next day.  He wanted to gather all of the Jewish leaders and get to the bottom of this!

Paul’s friends had been right.  It was dangerous for Paul to be in Jerusalem.  And Agabus, the prophet, was right.  Paul was tied up when he went to Jerusalem.  Even though everyone tried to stop him Paul went to Jerusalem to obey God.

Would you do what God wants you to do even if your friends told you you should not?

Review Questions:

  1. Even though people told Paul that there was much danger there, what city did Paul really want to go to? Jerusalem
  2. Why did the prophet, Agabus, use Paul’s belt to tie his own hands and feet? He was acting out the message: “the Holy Spirit says that the owner of the belt will be tied up by the Jews”.
  3. What did the Jews in Jerusalem say Paul was doing wrong? They said he was bringing Gentiles into the temple area where only Jews could go.
  4. Why did the Roman soldiers carry Paul to their barracks? To arrest him and save him from the angry mob of Jews who were trying to kill him.
  5. What did Paul do when he was on the steps of the soldiers’ barracks? He preached about Jesus.

Craft and Activity ideas for the class (choose age appropriate ones):

  • Have the children role play waking up and getting ready to attend the Sunday morning worship assembly. The phone rings and the child answers it. The teacher or another child speaks as if on the other end of the line. This person is trying to convince the first child that he should do something else instead of attend worship. The first child chooses to do right in spite of opposition. Act this out a few times using different situations (friend, cousin, coach, or anyone could be ringing them.)
  • Song: I Can Be a Missionary
  • Craft: Make a relief map of Paul’s Journies featuring the place in today’s story. If you are studying about Paul’s journies over a few lessons then you could add more details to the map each time you learn about another stop on the journey. Instructions on how to make a relief map at
  • Check the Teaching Ideas page on this website for ideas that are adaptable to any lesson.
  • Acts_PaulFind other ideas on the Pinterest Board “Acts:Life of Paul”


Other Online Resources:

Teachers love hearing ideas from other teachers! Share your ideas here.

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